Forget the world in a peaceful Okinawan island garden

Jun 28, 2014

Forget the world in a peaceful Okinawan island garden

First came the Ishigaki-teien, a mass of soaring limestone rocks, judiciously placed cycads and two lines of highly concentrated fukugi, the closely-matted leaves of the trees traditionally used in Okinawa as typhoon barriers. Owned by the Ishigaki family, who have lived on the island ...

Ring

| Jun 28, 2014

Ring

There is a long history of spooking the reader in Japan. The humid summer months are supposed to be alleviated by spine-chilling ghost stories and scary Edo Period dramas. But no particular season makes contemporary Japanese horror any less terrifying. Ring, by Koji Suzuki ...

Vita Sexualis

| Jun 14, 2014

Vita Sexualis

Ogai Mori was either a very fearless writer or someone confident enough to believe his literary status would insulate him against the fallout from publishing a novel guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of even the most enlightened Meiji Era (1868-1912) reader. Vita Sexualis, by ...

Almost Transparent Blue

| May 31, 2014

Almost Transparent Blue

Life around a U.S. base camp in Kanagawa in the 1970s may have mirrored certain aspects of American life, but they were often the most self-destructive elements. Set along the urban border between a military camp and Japan proper, the violent milieu of Ryu ...

One Man's Justice

| May 24, 2014

One Man's Justice

To borrow historian John Dower’s expression, the conflict in World War II between Japanese and American forces was a “war without mercy.” The atrocities committed by Japanese forces are well documented, those by American military personnel less so. One Man’s Justice, by Akira Yoshimura ...

Oya: The town that turned to stone

May 17, 2014

Oya: The town that turned to stone

It’s always good to know something about the ground under your feet when you visit a new destination. Geology, in a very real sense, is the foundation of the former renown and wealth of Oya-machi, a town with the dimensions of a village in ...

Koza: the carbonized city

Apr 19, 2014

Koza: the carbonized city

My first glimpse of Koza was a burned out car on a monochrome print I picked up at a recycle shop in Naha. I would see the image again when I visited the history section of the Okinawa City Hall, where there was a ...

Chishaku-in: a Kyoto garden of deep repose

Mar 29, 2014

Chishaku-in: a Kyoto garden of deep repose

As a garden, Chishaku-in has many of the attributes of Japanese landscape design that should attract a good number of visitors. The fact that the temple in Kyoto’s southeastern Higashikawara-cho district is rarely crowded, and that scant attention is paid to it in guidebooks, ...